City Council Gets Tough On Laser Pointers

OCEAN CITY — The Ocean
City Council plans to lay down the law on Monday night in hopes of getting
laser pointers out of the hands of children.

Ocean City Police Chief
Bernadette DiPino estimated that more than 30,000 green laser pointers have
been sold in the resort this year and their proliferation has spiked a rise in
not only complaints but also widespread concern about public safety after
rising reports of people complaining of blurred vision and sensitivity to light
after being “shined” by a laser pointer.

On Tuesday, the City
Council moved to add verbiage to its existing town ordinance that makes it
unlawful for anyone to harass or shine a laser pointer directly on another
person and will simply make it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy or
possess one, and also illegal to shine a laser pointer on any type of vehicle.

 Council President Joe Mitrecic said he
expects the changes to be passed on Monday night via an emergency ordinance.

“These things are not
toys,” said Councilwoman Margaret Pillas, who claimed last week to have her
vision skewed after being “shined” by a laser pointer. “I don’t think the
children realize that these can be harmful, and I don’t think the parents do
either. It’s gotten so bad on that Boardwalk this year with those green

Councilman Doug Cymek
agreed and described the scene on the Boardwalk for those unaware.

“I was on the Boardwalk
last weekend, and I’ll tell you, it was like Star Wars down there,” he said.

DiPino told the council
that 23 stores were found to be selling the laser pointers, which do have a
legal usage, thus making it impossible to ban the sale of them entirely in the
resort, according to City Solicitor Guy Ayres.

Although laser pointers
are used in boardrooms throughout the corporate world, local man Rich Drake,
who still feels the effects of altered vision from a laser pointer incident
last summer, said he doesn’t believe the laser pointers purchased on the
Boardwalk are being used in any boardroom and not for any reason than causing

“This problem will not
go away until we stop selling them in the stores,” said Drake. “Why are they
there, and whey are they being advertised outside when they are dangerous? To
this day, I have a pinkish tone around certain things when I look at it, and my
doctors tell me that the green laser pointers are stronger than the red ones.”

DiPino says that the
manufacturers of laser pointers are not regulated in any way, meaning that the
intensity of the laser coming out of these controversial items, are not
monitored for safety’s sake.

“We’ve had complaints
from the Coast Guard about laser pointers, as well as from the Maryland State
Police helicopter, who told us that as soon as they get near Ocean City, all
they see is laser pointers being shined up at them, and they’ve threatened to
stop landing in Ocean City if the problem was addressed,” said DiPino. “It also
stops our police horses in their tracks, as they think the laser is an

Councilman Jim Hall, who
stated that he had hoped that the council would move to outlaw laser pointers
from outdoor use in Ocean City, said that he was confident that taking the
laser pointers out of the hands of minors was a smart move.

“Taking Johnny’s laser
pointer away will send a message that if you are under 18, and you get caught
with a laser pointer, you are in real trouble,” said Hall.

Fines of up to $1,000
and a misdemeanor charge would be possible for anyone found to be in violation
of the new verbiage included in the town’s ordinance.

In addition, the council
moved to educate the public on the dangers of laser pointers as well, opting to
require all stores who sell laser pointers to post the town’s ordinance
outlining the rules and penalties for misuse in clear view at or near the point
of sale.

Mayor Rick Meehan hinted
that the council may take the ordinance one step further on Wednesday, saying
that City Solicitor Ayres may add verbiage that would make it unlawful to have
a laser pointer in public right of ways, which the mayor believes would cut
down on the pointers being shined into traffic from hotel balconies.

“I got more than a dozen
emails in the past few days telling me how good of a time that they had in
Ocean City, but there was a “but” in all of those emails, and the ‘but’ was
that they were really quite concerned with laser pointers, and they wanted to
make sure that we were doing something about it,” Meehan said.

DiPino said that the
laser pointers, which retail between $30 and $50, would be confiscated by
police officials if and when the ordinance passes through on Monday night.

The forward progress
seemed to appease Pillas, who quickly put on sunglasses inside City Hall as
soon as the meeting adjourned, although she, like Hall, wanted an outright ban
of the laser pointers.

“I really wanted them
taken out entirely, but I can support this,” said Pillas.